Equipment failure accounts for only 4% of all ride-related accidents reported to state regulatory agencies, but the consequences of mechanical failure on a spinning, speeding amusement ride can be disastrous.
Industry Safeguards - Maintenance and Inspection
Ride manufacturers provide guidance to ride owners regarding maintenance and inspection requirements. It's up to the ride owner to develop and follow a program to insure that safety-critical parts are checked for wear and fatigue in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.
Sometimes ride manufacturers or regulatory authorities discover that additional maintenance actions are required. The manufacturer and/or the regulatory agency will issue a supplemental bulletin and distribute it to known owners of the ride. The ride owners should then modify their maintenance and inspection procedures to incorporate the new requirements.
Insurance carriers often conduct an annual inspection of each ride they insure, checking for cracks and failed or worn parts. Some parks and carnival hire third-party inspectors to review their rides and their in-house safety programs. In some cases this is a voluntary choice. In some cases state or local law mandates that the rides be checked by a qualified inspector who is not directly employeed by the park or carnival.
In Some States, Government Inspectors Add an Extra Layer of Protection
Some states add an additional layer of safety protection by conducting independent audit inspections of the machinery and, sometimes, the internal safety records and operators' performance. Most states have some kind of inspection requirement on the books, but only about half the U.S. states employ and train government inspectors to audit industry's performance. Laws vary widely, as does the focus of required inspections.
What Can Consumers Do?
- Never board an amusement ride that looks poorly maintained. If you see or hear something that causes you to worry about the mechanical safety of an amusement ride, report it immediately to the ride operator or to customer service.
- Look for a state inspection sticker on the ride. This may not be easily accomplished, and certainly doesn't guarantee safety, but it does show you that the ride has been inspected.
- Never throw or drop anything off an amusement ride, deliberately swing the cars, or change seats mid-ride -- even on a very tame ride. Dropped articles can become lodged in the machinery. Swinging or rocking a Ferris wheel car can press the rider's weight too strongly on the lap bar, and cause it to open. Patrons have been seriously hurt this way. Moving around in a moving car causes weight shifts that can unbalance the car.
- If you have children, teach them the danger of tinkering with amusement rides. Teenagers have been known to take connectors and pins out of the cars in which they're riding. What might seem like minor vandalism to a 14-year-old boy can turn deadly if the pin happens to be holding part of the ride together.